Kitchen Administrative Fee

A letter to our staff & guests:

Tavern Road has decided to alter our business model in order to be able to pay our back of house (BOH) kitchen staff better wages in relation to the rest of our team. The disparity between front of house (FOH) and BOH compensation has been growing for many years. What was a gap 25 years ago has become an abyss, and it will only continue to widen. We think that within this year or next the majority of restaurants will have adopted some measure to address this critical issue.  We are writing this letter for three reasons:

 

1.       To be completely transparent to our employees, community & guests about what we are doing.

 

2.       To explain why we are doing it and why it is so important to us and our industry.

 

3.       To ask for support as we try a new approach.

 

There are some well-known statistics regarding wage growth among tipped employees vs. non-tipped employees. In our restaurants, tipped/FOH team members make 2.2 to 2.6 times as much as non-tipped/BOH employees. The fundamental issue underlying this widening gap is that tipped employees are tied to top-line revenue, whereas back of house employees are tied to bottom line results.

Every time we increase menu prices to cover inflation somewhere in the expense structure, we cover the expense but we widen the wage gap. We feel the wage problem can no longer be ignored. How can we as owners tolerate a scenario whereby half of our team’s compensation is about 60% lower than the other half’s?  We’re tired of feeling like our kitchen staff are second class citizens. We’re tired of knowing that they would be financially better off bussing tables or working at a chain restaurant. We need to hitch (at least part of) their star to top line revenue if we want to correct the disparity.

The impasse we’ve reached presents us with a host of difficult choices. Do we live with the status quo and accept stagnant wages in the kitchen? Or, in an effort to pay our kitchen staff more, should we cut total hours and streamline how we operate: stop making our own pasta, bread, and charcuterie, and buy those things even though we know they’re better if we make them? Should we stop doing our own fish and animal butchery? Should we work with mega-vendors and stop supporting local agriculture? Should we give less to charity and support fewer local events and organizations? Or, finally, should we ask guests to pay more in order to directly benefit the kitchen? 

Beginning January 1st, 2017 we are making two substantial changes to how we charge: First, all group, prix fixe, and event dining will have a 18% service charge and a 2% kitchen administrative fee added to the bill.  Second, all other diners will have a flat 4% kitchen administration fee added to their bill, and guests may still tip as they see fit.

We know many people will ask, “Why don’t you just raise your prices? This is your problem.” Our response is that it is our problem, and that in fact we are raising prices, albeit in a slightly different way that specifically aims to close the quality of life gap between front and back of house.

The FOH/BOH wage gap issue pervades the U.S. restaurant industry. Success and evolution in this industry is our life’s work, and we believe our restaurant – and small, independent restaurants in general – will not be sustainable for much longer without a correction. Quality restaurants cannot function; much less thrive, without quality chefs and cooks. We hope that making this small change will have a sufficiently large effect. Our goal is to improve the lives of our employees.

For small restaurants that don’t want to sacrifice craft or integrity in order to serve the communities they love, we believe this is a fair, effective, and sustainable approach. Our hope is that by making the compensation more equitable at our restaurant, our team will be able to achieve more, not less, for many years to come. We thank you in advance for your understanding and support as we attempt to correct this core issue. 

 

Thank you,

 

Louis & Michael